The trauma

OK, here’s something we need to tell you about. We became victims of immense psychological violence.

The journey itself was absolutely amazing. Another time we might write more about the endless sea, the playful dolphins, the flying fish and the stunningly fluorescent plankton like a fairy dust competing with the sky almost about to overflow with stars, where the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper met at the same place and time.

For this kind of information you might also want to have a look at Wendy’s description of the whole cruise.

Skye Melody crossing the Timor Sea

Skye Melody crossing the Timor Sea

But the captain of the yacht we sailed appeared to be a dangerous, persistently and extremely abusive person. Initially, the captain appeared to be a rough soldier type. He tells you what to do and you better don’t ask any questions and better do it fast and well, even if he knows you’ve never done it before. If you ask him anything or do anything wrong, he yells at you, swearing and calling you names. All right, I realize a lot of tough people do behave like this, I’ve seen it in the movies about the Vietnam war (which by the way he had fought in) and I can put up with this. I was doing my best, accepting the challenge, appreciating I can learn a lot and even enjoying the test of manhood in a way. I did well and became a better sailor.

But what happened later was incredible. Reading this, you might think I’m just a soft guy who didn’t sustain rough treatment. Well, this is not the case. The methods of psychological torture this guy was using on me I had only read about in books like “1984” or one about SAVAK, the Iranian secret police under the brutal reign of Shah Pahlavi.

Towards the end of the journey the captain developed an opinion about me in his mind (which was completely false), and based on this opinion started to attempt to break me down, as well as destroy our relationship with Wendy. Being very exhausted after a few days of hard physical labour and lack of sleep, I was subdued to continuous verbal violence aimed to convince me that I am a worthless piece of nothing deserving only to be locked away from the rest of humanity. He was repeatedly telling Wendy that she was blinded and should immediately leave “this fucking worthless piece of disgrace for the human race”. He was under this kind of abuse amok from time to time for an hour or two, but in the end it lasted for approximately 24 hours from when we first stepped onto dry land (we had to wait for customs to get our visas and be allowed out of the shore area). I am not going to go into more details, I’ll just say what he was doing really did cause psychological mechanisms I had read about in the aforementioned books. Like for example reaching a state of mind where I actually started seeing him as a safe guardian when he spoke to me normally, instead of calling me a “brainless piece of shit”.

If only I wasn’t where I am in my life, if I hadn’t done the Vipassana course that taught me to know and recognise who I am, if I hadn’t met all you beautiful people and if our relationship with Wendy wasn’t filled with love, goodness, compassion, understanding and conscious care, we might have broken up and stayed traumatised for years.

Arriving to beautiful Dili, we luckily met Emily, a wonderful and most caring person who’s been such a great support in recovering from this trauma. We are just sitting in her beautiful garden, listening to the sea waves, looking at goats and pigs roaming around and neighbours climbing palm trees to cut coconuts we later drink chilled. East Timor is marvellous and we are learning the Tetum language and preparing for a trip to the east of the country.

Emily's soothing garden in Dili

Emily’s soothing garden in Dili, where we are sitting as I’m writing this

We are alright and hoping that what happened won’t undermine ourselves and our relationship. We are working towards it. What I just wrote now is a part of the therapy and a warning for you that such things might happen and it’s important to know who you are, to be in peace with yourself and embrace life as it is.

Post scriptum

Looking at the events now, about 6 weeks after it happened, I don’t regret taking the trip. But that’s because at that particular moment we were very strong, both individually and as a couple. I hope this article to be a warning for anyone considering a cruise with Graeme Hay on Skye Melody. We were strong enough at that moment, but other people might not be that lucky (as you can see in the comments below, up till the very bottom of the page). Graeme might be working towards good reasons but he is very dangerous at the same time. He’ll find something about you that will lead him to preconceptions his mind which he will use to build an image of you (towards the end he claimed he knew how much money I had on my bank account or what clothes I had in my bag even though we never really talked about anything). Then, he’ll start severely punishing you for what he thinks you are, even if this image is absolutely false. And psychological violence is definitely something he knows a lot about, even if initially he might only seem to be a very rude person. I know a cruise from Darwin to Dili is a great deal, but if you’re wondering whether you should go with Graeme or not – just don’t.

About Jurek Lubinski

Jurek comes from Poland where he graduated robotics just before realising people are his real passion. He left his home country in 2011 to take on another studies - ultimate learning through moving around the globe and doing more and more odd jobs. Fascinated with languages and cultures, he spends a lot of time thinking about the situation of our World and how education and grass-roots projects can contribute to making it a better place.

13 Replies to “The trauma”

  1. Jenni Moore

    Yikes! And so the adventure continues. I hope you managed to keep the tension at bay! How was it for you Wen? Dare I say – you pays your money ($1.00) and you takes your chances. Good thing you both know who you are. Keep on being safe!

  2. Niloo

    What a Estory 😉 Jurek jan I’m so proud of you. You are the best of you now 😀 I’m happy for you two and wish you peace and inner love 🙂 Miss you n love you xxx

  3. Rafał

    Trzymajta się. Kiedys myślę doznalem co to syndrom sztokholmski.
    Non of those sea-wolf veneered greenhorns may ever make U subjugated in any way.

    I have a shrewd feeling ur vocabulary is becoming a repository of an effervescently trovish parlance. Pretty soothing after being surrounded with an lng akin to english.

    Begrudged 😉

  4. Pingback: Keeping afloat: Darwin to Dili by boat • Drop the tension!

  5. Natashka Cleary

    I know some people (who choose to remain anonymous) that also went on this boat. They also said that they knew immediately that they were just not good people, with the constant swearing and telling [true] horror stories [they were always the baddies…]. But that’s just the beginning. When they landed in Dili their passports were taken off them because the skipper decided they needed to pay more than the originally agreed upon price and they were forced to work for these people for $5 a day. It’s probably worse for their Timorese staff though, who were referred to as ‘slaves’. Still not even getting started… then they were all arrested because the people were caught smuggling in building equipment for their commercial business! I really think these people need to be named and shamed, at least to protect more people like yourselves in the future. The two I talk about are too scared after they were arrested and put in a Timorese jail!!!!!

  6. Jurek Lubinski Post author

    Yeah I have also heard more stories on other people who had experiences with those people… There’s also some stuff about it in the yacht’s log book.
    Graeme is a sick person, he has built a totally false image of myself based on some strange things happening only in his head. He chooses his victims and then uses lots of psychological violence and manipulation techniques over them.
    It was a really traumatic experience and even though it happened 3 weeks ago, I still feel really bad about it and think about it a lot. I would love to warn others about it but how to do it?

  7. Wayne

    Sorry for your experience. But, if you want to warn others, name the boat and the skipper. There are a lot of people here in Dili who would like to know. 1) Because we can warn others away and 2) Because we might be able to do something about it,

  8. Jurek Lubinski Post author

    Sure, the skipper’s name is Graeme Hay and the boat’s – Skye Melody. The place they’re building in Dili is called The Cove, near Praia Branca.
    It is a bit complicated, they generally try to do something good and are dedicated to the development of Timor Leste, as well as other places in South-East Asia. The problem is that they are extremely rude, and while trying to give local people skills and an opportunity to earn money, they treat them really bad.
    As it comes to the people Graeme ‘hires’ as crew for the Dili-Darwin sail, in general he’s just a harsh skipper, which I see as quite acceptable in the sailing world. The problem is that in my case and probably in case of others (we also heard at The Cove of some people from New Zealand who were treated by him very badly) he might create an absolutely false image of you, based on false presumptions and then start his psychological abuse. He’ll make some suspitions, then deprive you from sleep, make you really stressed and worn out, then you’ll make a mistake and in his mind (which I believe is actually sick) it’ll prove that he’s right about you. In my case he went as far as telling Wendy that I had told her I had only $500 for a few months in Asia, coming here to use hospitality of the poor people, etc. etc. This was absolutely not true, he had never talked to me, had no idea what I’m doing there and how much money I have, yet he kept not only really seriously taking it out on me, but also continously telling Wendy (who was also physically and mentally exhausted) to brake up with me.
    So, long story short, this guy is trying to do good things, but he’s not only extremely rude but also sick and dangerous. Similarily, his friends who run The Cove as well as Spot On Marine in Darwin, can be extremely rude.

  9. Frank Gieves

    Gee thats funny I have been on the Skye Melody with the skipper, he very very careful and if you stuff up in an unsafe manner he will tell u off, he did to me twice and to a crew person the boat minder from Timor he also told off for not stowing the demo life saving things correctly

    I would go anywhere with him on that boats he is extremely careful and I would thing given some of the stories he has told me about so-called boatie’s he has on the yacht (telling about there experiences when they have none) its a wonder he is not in the mad house.

    Anyway good news is always over-come by moaning and people who expect a free ride, the gentle who made the complaint I think is the one who tried to hide an auto life jacket after he had let it off, it would have been fatal to some-one to use in that state

    Good trip


  10. Jurek Lubinski Post author

    Hello Frank,

    Graham is definitely an excellent skipper and this post is not complaining about him telling people off for their mistakes at sea. Unfortunately, from my experience and experience of other people (see other comments) Graham can be extremely abusive (in my case on land), based on his premature judgements (taken from sentences he never allowed to finish or actions that weren’t accomplished, like the one with life jackets he claims I was trying to hide). I know when I stuff up and I know when I’m told off for 15 minutes with the most abusive language I heard in my life for obeying an order not to touch anything.

    I’m glad to hear you never had to experience it,

  11. Daryl

    My friend and I were part of the crew in the 2013 race and I have been searching the name “Skye Melody” since to find out what is happening since we escaped the wrath of Graeme. From reading your article I can tell that nothing has changed since we left! That man is the worst person I have ever met in my life and I was hoping to find out that he had died. I don’t say this lightly and I don’t think that I have ever thought it about anyone previously but in this case it is true. As soon as I made it back to Australia I walked away without being paid and never looked back.

    During our employment we worked in Darwin for several months installing road signs in the Northern Territory and sailed to Timor as part of the yacht race on some pretence of charity. The “company”, was an absolute shambles and he systematically employed backpackers (slaves as he would call them), for cheap labour and then refused to pay them when they eventually quit due to the stress and abuse. Sadly, a lot of these people, myself included, left without ever getting paid for the work that was done. On arriving back in Australia he was arrested for refusing to register his ship with the authorities and claimed he would, “rather sink it”, than pay the tax.

    Fortunately I was one of the favoured crew members and didn’t suffer quite as horrendous mental torture but I witnessed others be bullied into submission by him over the course of the trip. In addition to this, the boat was barely even afloat and was being sailed by 4 completely inexperienced sailors. I am surprised we actually survived the trip.

    I do not have time to write my entire experience on here so I will just say that I agree entirely with your article and I think that everyone aboard the yacht with me would also. The experience remains one of my best and worst experiences due to that horrendous man, which is a shame because the trip itself was beautiful.

    I am curious to know what he is doing now and what ridiculous business plan the company is running under. I would appreciate any information you could provide.

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